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The following are the employment forecasts for engineers:
Total number employed in all sectors of the economy expected to grow by about 11 percent. The number employed in electrical power generation, transmission and distribution is expected to drop by 8.5 percent, representing less than 2 percent of the total engineers employed in all sectors.
The total number of mechanical engineers employed in all sectors is expected to increase by about 6 percent. The number employed in electrical power generation, transmission and distribution will decrease by about 13 percent, representing less than 0.5 percent of the total number of mechanical engineers employed in all sectors.
The total number of nuclear engineers employed in all sectors is expected to increase by about 11 percent. The number employed by utilities will be approximately the same, representing about 38 percent of the total number of nuclear engineers employed in all sectors.
The total number of electrical/electronics engineers employed in all sectors is expected to increase by about 1 percent.
As shown in Table 2, power plant operators, distributors and dispatchers held about 50,400 jobs in 2008, of which 5,000 were nuclear power reactor operators, 10,000 were power distributors and dispatchers, and 35,400 were power plant operators.
By 2018, the number of non-nuclear power plant operators is expected to decline by 2 percent, representing little or no change as the power industry continues to promote efficiency and build more efficient plants. While most of the major employment effects of deregulation have already occurred, power plant owners will continue to focus on cost cutting. As older, less efficient plants are retired, they are expected to be replaced with new plants with higher capacities, requiring fewer workers. Also, the higher capacity means fewer new plants will be needed to produce the same amount of electricity.
The number of nuclear power reactor operators is expected to grow by 19 percent between 2008-2018, due to expected plant construction and new rules on operator fatigue. Although no new plants have been licensed since the 1990s, many sites have applied for permits that will need to be staffed before the end of the projection’s decade. In addition, newly enacted Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations on fatigue limit the length of shifts, resulting in the need for more operators.
It should be noted that the BLS numbers and statistics cited for nuclear might change in light of the recent nuclear crisis in Japan.
Measures to address workforce and training issues
Partnerships and co-operative efforts
There are several examples of partnerships and collaboration among various entities such as universities, government, unions, state workforce development agencies and the industry.
For example, classroom and web-based courses in power plant technology and related topics are conducted by several universities and training companies.
The Center for Workforce Development formed in 2006 as a joint effort by the Edison Electric Institute, Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Gas Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The objectives were to help both utilities and prospective employees by supplying programs and processes — best employment practices, educational and training resources, etc.